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New York, Utah and Washington Report Increases in Appropriations for Civil Legal Aid - Although states continue to face difficult financial situations, legal aid advocates in several are working to increase state legislative funding, and some successes have already been reported. In New York, the appropriation for legal services in the Judiciary budget will double from $12.5 million to $25 million. In Utah, the legislature also doubled the state appropriation, from about $200,000 to $400,000. The Washington appropriation will increase by $490,000, from $11,590,000 to $12,080,000. For more information about state legislative funding, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
Indiana Pro Bono Programs Will Receive Funds from a New Filing Fee Surcharge - The Indiana legislature has approved a $1 filing fee surcharge on certain civil, small claims and probate actions to help fund the state’s pro bono programs, which have been hard-hit by the decline in IOLTA revenue. The fee, which is scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2017, is expected to raise approximately $500,000 annually. For more information about this legislation, contact Charles Dunlap, Executive Director, Indiana Bar Foundation or call 317/269-2415.
Idaho Supreme Court Adopts IOLTA Rule Revisions - On March 5, 2012, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho entered an order adopting mandatory IOLTA and IOLTA rate comparability. These revisions will become effective on July 1, 2012. Idaho becomes the 45th jurisdiction to require that all practicing lawyers participate in IOLTA, and the 33rd to adopt rate comparability. The latter revenue enhancement strategy requires that lawyers place their IOLTA accounts only in a financial institution that pays those accounts the highest interest rate or dividend generally available at the institution to other customers when IOLTA accounts meet the same minimum balance or other qualifications. For more information about these IOLTA revenue enhancement strategies and others, contact Bev Groudine, Counsel, ABA Commission on IOLTA or call 312/988-5771.
Conference of Chief Justices Adopts Resolution in Support of LSC Funding - At its 2012 Midyear Meeting, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) adopted Resolution 1, which reaffirmed the importance of the Legal Services Corporation. The resolution also called upon members of Congress to fulfill the nation’s promise of “Equal Justice Under Law” by restoring funding for LSC “to the level necessary to provide critically needed services to low-income and vulnerable Americans.” For more information about the CCJ/COSCA resolution and other activities to preserve this critical funding source for legal aid, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
Illinois Supreme Court Adopts "Katrina Rule" - Illinois Supreme Court Rule 718 permits lawyers who are licensed in another state to provide pro bono legal services to residents of Illinois after a major disaster. The rule is known as the "Katrina Rule" as the model rule was developed by the American Bar Association in response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastating effects. For more information, contact Joseph Tybor, Director of Communications, Illinois Supreme Court, at 312/793-2323.
Tennessee Offers Licenses for www.onlinetnjustice.org - After a year of successful operation of the online pro bono web site at www.onlinetnjustice.org, Tennessee is offering other states a license to the software. Through it, low income Tennesseans with legal issues are both screened and post questions online that are answered by approximately 300 volunteer lawyers. The software was created by the law firm Baker Donelson. For additional information, contact Sarah Hayman, Access to Justice Coordinator, Tennessee Bar Association or call 615/383-7421.
Washington State Bar Association Launches Online Directory of Pro Bono Opportunities - The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) recently launched www.ProBonoWA.org, an online directory of pro bono opportunities around the state. The website is designed to link lawyers with opportunities to serve low- and moderate-income clients and will connect volunteers with organizations in need of pro bono lawyers. The WSBA will maintain and update volunteer opportunities listed on the website, which is a partnership of the Northwest Justice Project, Probono.net, and the Washington Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono & Public Service Committee. For additional information, contact Sharlene Steele, Access to Justice Liaison, Washington State Bar Association or call 206/727-8262.
ABA Day in Washington took place on April 17-19, 2012, and once again organized bar leaders to educate their members of Congress about the need for increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation. More than 300 ABA and state/local bar leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands participated in this year’s program.
On April 19, 2012, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) funding bill which includes $402 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). This figure provides a $54 million increase over LSC's FY 2012 funding level of $348 million. The House CJS Subcommittee marked up its FY 2013 appropriations the same day. The subcommittee recommended $328 million in FY 2013 funding for LSC. On April 26, 2012, the House Appropriations Committee adopted the subcommittee’s recommendation.
Congress is scheduled to be on recess the first week in May, and the Senate and House CJS bills are likely to be among the first of the fiscal 2013 bills that both Houses take up once they return. There is no indication yet how they will reconcile the difference in funding levels for LSC and whether negotiations will occur before or during the lame duck Congress. For additional information, contact Ann Carmichael, Legislative Counsel, ABA Governmental Affairs Office or call 202/662-1767.
For more information about specific items, contact the contact person listed for that item. To contribute items to future issues of LEGAL SERVICES NOW, or for general information about this bulletin, contact Bev Groudine, call 312-988-5771, or fax 312-988-5483.